AUSTIN ROWING CLUB HISTORY
See the ARC Blog for more history!
Go to ARC in the late 1800’s
Go to ARC in the mid 1980’s
Go to ARC today
ARC in the late 1800's
Austin Rowing Club has a very long history, even if it was not continuous. The founders of today’s Austin Rowing Club knew of the early 19th century group and some of that history.
Austin Rowing Club was first established in 1899 with 43 charter members and a mission to “promote all aquatic sports” in Austin. The club was founded by the same people who in 1893, 1894 and 1895 hosted the International Regattas in Austin, Texas on Lake McDonald. The principal person of this group was John Crotty. Crotty chose the name “Austin Rowing Club” in 1899, when the club finally incorporated and became a legal entity. Mr. Crotty was well respected both in rowing and in business, not just in Austin, but in the State of Texas.
The early international regattas were held because the City of Austin wanted and needed it. City leaders were looking for a very public means to advertise Austin and its economic potential. The only thing of note the City had was the State Government, and the University of Texas, both of which were very young in their development. UT did not have enough money to put in a gym, and barely had a baseball field. Austin wanted industry - mills, factories. The City had finally gained momentum to put in a costly dam (for which bonds needed to be sold), and they needed a large civic event that would be well received by industry, and reach an audience beyond Austin, and beyond Texas.
Enter John Crotty, a cotton buyer from the booming city of Galveston, and an oarsman. Mr. Crotty did not need to put on such an event. He could have rowed anywhere he wanted in the U.S. However, he immediately recognized that Austin, with the pending dam on Lake McDonald, could become a rowing mecca. If big name rowers could be brought in, crowds would come, and if crowds came, businessmen would consider Austin for expansion. It could be exactly the kickstart that Austin was soliciting. Mr. Crotty first ran the idea by a couple local businessmen, got some verbal agreements of monetary backing and then pursued the "What If..." with the public and City. The City of Austin jumped on it, immediately asking John Crotty to head it up, no small request. Thus, in an effort to bring business and industry to Austin, the City would promote itself by hosting an international rowing regatta. At the time, rowing was one of the most popular sports in America. Large regattas in the northeast attracted thousands. Spectators would place bets on races, and the media reported heavily on rowing.
As a result of the regatta(s), Austin generated publicity not just in Texas and the US, but internationally! Newspapers ran large detailed articles about the City of Austin, not just the regatta. Austin became a destination for visitors and tourists. John Crotty was asked again to head up subsequent regattas, and he obliged – in 1893, 1894, and 1895.
So why did Austin not become a manufacturing town? The answer is twofold - The engineers miscalculated the flow, so the dam did not produce as much horse power as advertised, and two, the dam broke in 1900, with no attempts to rebuild until after 1910.
(copyright: Virginia Hoffman)[Back to Top]
ARC in the mid-1980’s
Today’s Austin Rowing Club was incorporated in 1981 with 20 dues paying members and has since grown to over 400. The 501(c)(3) non-profit organization was formed to provide rowing opportunities and to promote the sport of rowing in the
From the articles of incorporation:
The purpose or purposes for which the Corporation is organized are: to
stimulate and foster interest in the sport of rowing among amateurs as
individuals and in clubs and schools; to publicize the advantages or
rowing as a means of health and physical development; to promote
interest through competition and regattas; to provide facilities and
equipment for interested persons to participate in the sport of rowing;
and to advance the sport of amateur rowing in accordance with the best
traditions of sportsmanship.
Early members rowed from several different locations including the current site of the Austin Youth Hostel on the south-east side of the river, and the current site of Joe’s Crab Shack, also on the south side, where members stored their one wooden Pocock eight among other smaller boats. Membership more than doubled every 2 years, and the construction of a 2 bay boathouse and clubhouse began in 1986.
The following is an excerpt from the 1984 Heart of Texas Regatta Program:
“The centerpiece of an ambitious park landscaping project on the north shore of Lady Bird Lake between Congress Avenue and Waller Creek, this lasting and visionary gift to the Austin park system was bestowed by the developers of the San Jacinto Center hotel and office complex. Modeled after the grand boathouses of Philadelphia and Boston, the Town Lake rowing center will contain two buildings and a world class dock system. Its sand-colored stucco walls and copper metal roofs will reflect the Tuscan architectural influence of the flanking Four Seasons Hotel. The storage building will house up to 40 shells, as well as equipment storage and repair facilities. Shower/locker and weight training rooms in the service building will meet the needs of all Town Lake rowers, from the elite competitor to the weekend hobbyist. But it will be more than the center of our timeless port--it will be a people place, especially designed to attract activity to this dazzlingly scenic segment of the lake. Hotel patrons, canoeists, office workers and joggers will relax under the willows and crepe myrtles to be preserved or planted anew on the grounds. They will be able to enjoy a light sandwich or beverage from the boathouse's juice bar; or they can simply observe the comings and goings of Austin's rowing crews.”
“The Austin Rowing Club wishes to recognize those whose vision and hard work made this dream real. They are:
• John Carpenter (Southland Corporation)
• Bill Gump (Southland Corporation)
• Barry Sullivan (Southland Corporation)
• Jay Juba (Southland Corporation)
• David Reed (Austin Parks and Recreation)
• Stuart Strong (Austin Parks and Recreation)
• Charles Jordan (Austin Parks and Recreation)
• Reg Todd (Downtown Austin Partners)
• Rick Harding (Downtown Austin Partners)
• Sandy Shapiro (Downtown Austin Partners)
• Robert and Anne Barnstone
• Bill Bingham (McGinnis, Lochridge & Kilgore)
We wish to extend a special "thanks" to James Turner of the Richardson-Verdoorn land planning firm for his tenacious creativity. Our new home will be his signature on the Town Lake canvas.”
Austin Rowing Club, with its new facility, continued to grow through the mid 1990's. The facility was showcased in 1991 when the club hosted the USRowing Masters National Championships, and again in 1993 when Austin hosted the USRowing National Convention.
[Back to Top]
Today ARC continues to be the only non-profit organization providing rowing fitness opportunities on Lady Bird Lake and has been the City’s partner for over 2 decades of providing low-cost and no-cost rowing opportunities to the community. These programs are provided to the community at NO COST to City of Austin or PARD.
Austin Rowing Club currently has over 400 members, including junior program members, masters rowers, and Intro To Rowing (ITR) participants. ARC covers a wide range of ages and abilities. Our members range in age from 12 to 72. Some row recreationally, while others compete nationally and internationally. Members come from as far away as Georgetown, Round Rock, Pflugerville and Waco. Several “out of state” members train with Austin Rowing Club while in town for business or pleasure.
Austin Rowing Club has been a host to Texas Crew, who continues to use the grounds and docks, and currently hosts St. Edwards University Crew, who rows under the ARC membership and uses ARC equipment and facilities.
Austin Rowing Club is a good neighbor. For a list of other non-profit organizations that have benefited from ARC's outreach programs, CLICK HERE.
According to an economic impact study performed by the Austin Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Austin Rowing Club events have a direct economic impact of $2.2 million annually, indirect impact of over 3.5 million. In addition to ARC's three nationally recognized regattas, several high school and collegiate teams from colder climates make Austin Rowing Club their winter and spring training destination.
Please continue to browse our website to see more about Austin Rowing Club’s programs and offerings.
[Back to Top]
ARC in the Press
See the ARC Blog for more history!